We are excited to be working with a wonderful group of emerging writers and directors who were selected from an open submission for the Nursery Theatre’s Flourish Festival Artist Development Initiative.  Writers have been developing their proposed ideas into ten-minute plays, attending playwriting masterclasses with writer & director Melissa Dunne and receiving script feedback from Melissa and playwright Abi Zakarian. Directors are collaborating and rehearsing with the writers to bring their plays alive in a public sharing at the Festival’s conclusion on Saturday 23rd September, 7pm.

Rehearsed Reading Programme

Mother Apple by Ilya Wray, directed by Lilly Driscoll

A single mother hesitates to disclose her past to a young painter on their first date. But as the night goes on, an unfamiliar nostalgia disturbs the couple and reveals they know more about each other than they thought.  

Ilya Wray: Ilya’s love affair with performance began on stage amongst school painted backdrops and amateur productions. He wrote and directed his first theatre pieces at college and later attended an acting academy to develop his craft. Ilya returned to performance after a short stint in the city, only this time to pick up the pen and force his stories into life. Against the background of a Writing Master’s programme, the last three years have been spent writing pilots, movies, and stage plays, as well as collaborating in co-writing and creating short films. Ilya has written across most mediums (stage, screen, radio, animation) and genres, but if ‘arm-twisted’ would squeak that he loves to write comedy, horror, and drama.
If he’s not lost in a third draft, you’ll probably find him whispering loudly in a cinema theatre (“inspiration”), or cooking unnecessarily complicated dishes (procrastinating). 

Lilly Driscoll: Lilly is a queer, benefit class actor, writer and director from London. Lilly founded the company DE-MYS-TIFY in 2022, to support actors from low socio-economic backgrounds.  As an actor Lilly has worked in TV, Theatre and Film with companies including BBC, Channel 4, ITV and at venues including Southwark Playhouse, Bush Theatre and The Old Vic. 

Plays include Offie nominated Dirty Promises (The Hope Theatre), short play My girlfriend is a real doll face (Bush Theatre) and solo play Only You (Theatre 503). Lilly was commissioned in 2022 to write PIECES for Small Truth Theatre (Caravan Theatre), which is available to listen to on all audio platforms.  Lilly recently joined the writing team at Stockroom (previously Out of Joint). Collaborating on the online series ‘Acting Normal’. As well as starting work on a brand new theatre project.


The Retreat by Sally Macalister, directed by Lilly Driscoll

In a small house on a crumbling cliff in a seaside village, two friends reunite. As the house they were formed in tumbles into the sea, they’re faced with all the things they’ve left unsaid- and if they could have changed the outcome by acting sooner.

Sally Macalister: Sally is a Northern playwright currently based in London. After graduating from Bristol old Vic theatre school in Drama Writing in 2022, she went straight to the Edinburgh Fringe with the Koi Collective, where her sell-out séance play ‘Crossing the Void’ won the Best Drama Award from Derek reviews and received a mixture of 4 and 5 star reviews. Most recently her play, ‘Tiny Babies’, was longlisted for the Untapped Award. Sally is currently working on a commission for the Borders Live Mental Health festival and a verbatim play/ audio project surrounding menstruation and medical misconceptions. Her work focuses on topics close to her heart, such as mental health, institutional abuse, sexuality and other ‘modern moral panics’. She loves a two-hander, and is very excited for ‘The Retreat’ to be brought to life.


Don’t Worry About Me But I Worry About You All The Time by Kiran Benawra, directed by Prashant Tailor

Anu is helping her daughter Shivani move into her first (rented) flat but will this celebratory milestone be undermined by the pair’s worries about one another? A comedy drama about a mother and daughter desperate for a deeper connection but struggling to communicate this for fear of being too vulnerable. 

Kiran Benawra: Kiran is a writer, producer and improvisor. Her TV pilot was included in the BFI Postroom’s Top Picks 2016. She was a finalist in the comedy writing category at the Funny Women Awards 2017. Selected for The Mono Box’s and Hampstead Theatre’s PLAYSTART scheme, her short play Cold Feet and Bacon Sandwiches was published by Oberon Books. Kali Theatre produced Kiran’s monologue, The Three Ps, as part of South Asian Heritage Month 2020. Her short film, Screams, was commissioned by The Mono Box for Reset the Stage 2021. Kiran’s play Cookie Jar, produced by Abeille Theatre, completed a run at The Space Theatre in 2022. She has written and produced sketches for Mother’s Best Child. Her short, Crushed, has been selected for the Wigan and Leigh Film Festival 2023. Kiran is a cast member in several of The Free Association’s improv teams including St. Doctor’s Hospital and Minority Report.

Prashant Tailor: Prashant is a South-Asian theatre maker who lives for challenging what theatre is by definition, function and cultural association. 

 Beginning his directorial journey on Young Vic’s Directors Network, Prashant made the most of our industry’s quiet period in 2020/2021 through directing filmed theatre (“Walk to World’s End” – Theatre503 and “One Shot” – Applecart Arts) whilst simultaneously debuting as a writer and making work for radio (Dirty Reflection – Foreign Body Productions/The Albany Deptford). 

Catching the attention of Tamasha Theatre Company through these multidisciplinary talents, Prashant continued growing through their Directors Programme which culminated in him creatively leading an audio production at National Theatre Studios (“Unfinished Song”) and a touring show from Birmingham Hippodrome to Theatro Technis (“Manfred”). Prashant is currently a Director on Mercury Theatre’s PPD Development Scheme 2023 – 2024.


New Earth by Amy Lever, directed by Prashant Tailor

It’s 2096. Siblings Elijah and Sadie prepare to join the worldwide evacuation to New Earth. Do they pack their Great-great-great Grandmother’s silver candlesticks that survived the Holocaust or bring their dog? New Earth is an exploration into the bond of family, cultural heritage and the wider implications of the current climate crisis.

Amy Lever: “Being a writer of Jewish middle-eastern heritage, I am passionate about creating work that champions under-represented perspectives in British theatre particularly those in the north of England. My first play, “Life Before the Line” followed the lives of Mancunian Jewish teenagers growing up during the 2016-17 rise in antisemitism. It won the Cambridge University Edinburgh Fringe prize – an award in which one new play is fully funded at the Edinburgh Fringe, receiving five-star reviews, sold-out shows, a transfer to the Cockpit in London and subsequent accolades (MasterClass Pitch Your Play Longlist, BOLD Playwrights Longlist, Varsity’s Top Ten Shows of the Year). Since then, I was accepted onto the Street Voices 9 six-month writing programme with Freedom Studios and Kala Sangam Arts Centre. I have since been commissioned by Contact theatre (“Fifty Years Later”), Izzy Parriss Productions (“Last New Years”, Old Red Lion), Manchester Jewish Museum (“We Wish You Long Life”), Peripeteia Theatre (“Pandemonium”), HOME and MIF (“111 More Time”). Recently I was named runner up for the Alpine Fellowship Prize for Playwriting, shortlisted for the Shelagh Delaney New Writing Prize and shortlisted for the The Warner Bros Discovery Access Writer’s Exchange Programme. I’m currently working with Contact and HOME on my verbatim play “111 More Time” inspired by accounts of student helpline volunteers, staged at the Manchester International Festival. I’d love to continue writing stories about human connection be it over the phone or in a Jewish classroom. For far too long they have gone unnoticed.”


Roots by Maryam Grace, directed by Simona Hughes

Invasive. Alien. Exotic. Undesirable. Roots is a brand new play exploring migration, displacement and belonging through the lens of horticulture, botany and gardening.

Maryam Grace: Maryam is a Brighton based Actor, Musician and Writer. Maryam mainly has a background in poetry writing, and is now developing her skills and experience in writing for theatre. She is currently writing a comedy cabaret musical about OCD. She is also a trained horticulturist and loves any opportunity to combine her two passions. 

Simona Hughes: Simona graduated (with Distinction) from her MFA in Advanced Theatre Practice at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2019. In January 2021 she became an Artistic Director of the Tower theatre in Stoke Newington.

Simona wrote and directed the play About 500, which featured at The King’s Head Theatre, The Union Theatre and The Omnibus theatre in the Spring of 2022, and was nominated for 3 awards. Also in 2022 she directed a large scale production of Helen Edmundson’s Coram Boy at the Tower Theatre, which toured to The Minack Theatre. Other directing credits at Tower include James Graham’s Labour of Love, Martin Sherman’s  A Passage To India, Tanya Ronder’s Table, Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love. Simona has directed short plays at Theatre 503, The Bread and Roses , VAULT festival, the Arcola Outside and The Pit (Barbican). Simona also directs for The Primary Shakespeare Company.


IMMOVABLE OBJECT by Robin Cantwell, directed by Simona Hughes

Stubborn grandmother Eleanor refuses to accept the harsh realities of her ailing condition and move into care, while daughter Anna is torn between her duties as a child and parent. A two-hander about caring responsibilities, sacrifice, and what it really means to have a family. 

Robin Cantwell: Robin is an award-winning playwright, poet and fiction writer. He trained on writing schemes at The National Theatre and Theatre503.   His debut play NAP TIME received a rehearsed reading at White Bear Theatre and was selected for Big Idea Theatre’s One Act Play Festival in Sacramento, California. It will be published later this year by City Fox Books. His follow-up, BAD MOULT, was awarded the Cambridge Creatives Playwriting Prize 2023.  With themes ranging from toxic masculinity to the technological singularity, his short-form works have been performed at venues including Southwark Playhouse, The Pleasance, Haywire Theatre, Bread & Roses, Cambridge Junction and The Arcola.He is currently studying for a Master’s degree at Cambridge University and is a recent alumnus of the Yale Writers’ Workshop.


Generation Rent by Sean Stillmaker, directed by Bettina Paris

A group of artists residing in a blighted London neighbourhood transform it into a flourishing home. What does the landlord do when the real estate value goes up? 

Sean Stillmaker: Sean is originally from Chicago, Sean has been living in London for over decade. Possessing a diverse myriad of experiences as an award-winning investigative reporter and multimedia producer, his acclaimed storytelling has been applied to a wide array of subjects from fashion and features to politics and public affairs across the globe. He’s the founder and director of majestic disorder, which consists of an arts + culture magazine, marketing agency and travel company providing immersive experiences that connects travellers with the craft and culture of Morocco. Always passionate about theatre, Sean is now embarking upon a playwrighting career with this being his first credit. What influences him are contextualising important social issues and communicating these paradigms in a comprehensible and entertaining manner.

Betinna Paris: Bettina is a director, theatremaker, actor and writer based in London. In 2018, she is graduated from Arts Educational Schools. Her first project in the role of director saw her win ‘Best Director’ for MIKĦAL at the Malta International Theatre Festival, with the production going on to win another 10 awards including Best Production. In 2019, she directed NINU by Anton Saliba at Spazju Kreattiv, Malta and in 2022 she had her directing debut on UK soil with COOKIE JAR by Kiran Benawra at The Space Theatre, both of which were awarded Arts Council Malta funding. Last December, she formed part of the team of directors for Theatre 503 & Yellow Coat Theatre’s PASS IT ON, a new writing night that celebrated marginalised genders. Throughout March ’23, she shadowed former Paines Plough director James Grieve on BERLUSCONI: THE MUSICAL at the Southwark Playhouse Elephant.  


The Singling by Conor Carroll, directed by Bettina Paris

In May 2022, Niall travels to Carrick-on-Suir in Ireland to scatter the ashes of his recently deceased father.  In December 1998, Niall’s father Joe travels to Carrick to sell his family home after the recent death of his father.  Both trips lead to revelations about their family which force these men to reckon with the sins of their father’s.  

Conor Carroll: Conor is a British/Irish, London born and raised playwright with an MA in Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. He has been writing for over ten years, telling empathetic multi-generational stories in an unconventional manner which look to find our common humanity. He has had work produced primarily for theatre at venues including Theatre 503, Camden People’s Theatre, Bread & Roses Theatre, Tristan Bates Theatre, The North Wall Arts Centre, the Lyric Hammersmith, the Oldham Coliseum, the Oxford Playhouse, the Park Theatre and the Arcola Theatre.

His play “It Is So Ordered” was produced in April 2017 at the Pleasance Theatre in London and was developed on the Park Theatre’s Script Accelerator programme with support from Old Vic New Voices. The play was inspired by the true story of the longest serving African-American citizen to be exonerated from a crime they did not commit and set during the Harlem Race Riots.  His next play “Haste Ye Back” was developed on the Soho Theatre Writer’s Lab and Criterion New Writer’s Group. The story was about the resettlement of Syrian refugees on the remote Isle of Bute in Scotland, where his family, on his mother’s side, come from. The play made it into the Top 3 of the ETPEP Award in 2019 and had a rehearsed reading at the Criterion Theatre in November 2022.